The first apartment I ever had was the one I shared with my first husband. At the ages of Eighteen and Twenty, with a baby on the way, coming strait from our parents’ homes, we were ready to take on the world! I had no idea what I was doing, but how hard could it all be? Our apartment was on the second floor of an adorable little old house, portioned off into two small apartments upstairs and one reasonably sized apartment on the main floor. The mice lived in the basement, with the exception of the one who made a lovely home out of an Angora sweater that I had stored under our bed. Our little upstairs corner of the world consisted of a tiny living room/dining area, a tiny closet of a kitchen (I really think it was an actual closet at some point in its existence), a bedroom, and a bathroom. The bathroom, as my ex-husband put it, “was so small, you could take a dump, wash your hands, and soak your feet in the tub at the same time!” It was never actually attempted, but absolutely within the realm of possibility.
My mother was an amazing “doer”. I grew up watching, in wonder, at how effortlessly she ran home and hearth. She made it look so easy. I could figure it out, right? Before we moved our meager belongings into our new home, I went in armed with naught but a can of foaming bathroom cleaner, windex, rags, bucket, and paper towels. I could just spray the whole place down, let those bubbles do their work (“…so you don’t have tooooo!”), wait a little bit, and wipe it all away. After that, the windex would be there to shine up the stuff that needed to be shiny and voila! Those beautiful hardwood floors were defenseless against my domestic ignorance. I am so sorry.
The first meal I cooked in that tiny closet kitchen was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn. Of course, I didn’t ask for instructions or consult a cookbook, Silly. Common sense and, what I was certain was, a natural gift for cooking would sail me right on through. As I cooked, I imagined how surprised and impressed my new husband would be. The result was a truly unforgettable meal. Shocking, in fact, was the chicken, pink in the middle, tough, and not even close to crispy on the outside. The gravy was thicker than the mashed potatoes. The corn, however, was delightful! We sat down to eat, and the mister assured me that everything was “SO good!” As we ate, and worked really hard at keeping up the facade that this was “SO good”, the reality became too scary. It wasn’t worth risking our lives over. I couldn’t keep quiet, “This is awful! We can’t eat this!” Commence tears, followed by a dinner of milk and the home made chocolate chip cookies that I had executed beautifully.
Not long after the chicken and tears, I perfected spaghetti, sloppy joe’s, and a few casseroles. I made tuna noodle casserole far more often than the rest of the small menu combined. My husband came to loathe it, and I doubt he’s eaten it since the day we parted. As fate will often twist life, tuna noodle casserole was always one of my second husband’s favorite meals when he was a kid. One man’s something is another man’s….. I mean, no one died. AND, husband number two is really digging the tuna casserole.